There have been lots of new information available, so this post will just share new information on a few different subjects:

  • Silica rule:
    • At this point, it doesn’t appear that the silica rule will be legally blocked. So, now is the time to prepare for all of the coming changes. However, the new administration may have some influence.
    • Federal OSHA has (finally) published their Small Entity Guide (103 pages!) but, no doubt, this will be useful for many.
  • NIOSH Noise Control Contest
    • I encouraged people to submit their ideas…and then, I missed the deadline to submit.
    • However, the results are in.  And at least one of them seems like a decent one (I have my opinion, but will let you decide which one is your favorite)
    • Check their main page, Hear and Now, for a summary
  • I AM IH
    • Another contest!
    • AIHA is asking for a short documentary highlighting the people behind the industrial hygiene profession. Are you interesting? ’cause most IH’s arent… (ha)
  • Free Safety Videos- Health in Construction
    • This project has taken a massive amount of my time, and it is still not completed yet . However, below are the links to the videos for those of you looking for a sneak peek.  Please feel free to share…more materials,  website upgrades, and ‘giant fan fare’ will be forthcoming.
      • Silica Awareness Video: Hierarchy of controls
      • Noise: Life from a construction worker’s experience with noise
      • Asbestos: What to do when you encounter suspect asbestos
      • Lead: A humorous look at why we shouldn’t be exposed to lead


I was recently forwarded an article on a gentleman who won a large sum of money ($8.75 million) for an asbestos related disease. There are many people getting these types of settlements for similar exposures.

However, what is interesting, is the attorneys argued the company knew about asbestos in 1965, but the exposure occurred in the 1970’s. Keep in mind, the asbestos rules at OSHA didn’t come out until the 1970s as well. So, exposure occurred before the regulations were in effect.

So, they knew of the airborne hazard, but continued to exposure workers before there was a rule. Does this sound like any modern day issue?   –hint– silica?!

Nowadays with the public being uber-aware of “potential” airborne hazards (mold?), with information so readily available, with OSHA rules outdated (annotated Z1 tables), and others publishing health standards like ACGIH,….the lesson is: protect your employees.

I don’t think we should be arguing about the OSHA rules. Let’s use available information and science. “More Than Just A Number” (article published by AIHA, May 24, 2016).

asbestos snow

OSHA has recently announced the final time frame for the proposed silica rule. February 1, 2015 is their anticipated rule promulgation. However, we will see if anyone protests this new information, and if the date for final rule “sticks”.

AIHA broke the news (at least to me) and you can see their summary here. If this is the first you’ve heard about this new rule, then it’s time to do some research, and I might recommend starting here. There are quite a few new requirements, including a lower permissible exposure limit (PEL).

dust exposure

I am the current chairperson of the AIHA Consultant’s Special Interest Group (Consult SIG). We conducted a survey and asked the AIHA membership of industrial hygiene consultants what their needs are, and how, as a group, we could help them. A summary of the survey result findings was just published in the November, 2014 AIHA’s, The Synergist, titled, “What IH Consultants Want“.  

We didn’t make the front page. But hey!, we weren’t on the last page either (second page to back, ha).

Nov 2014 Synergist

I cannot publish it here due to copyright infringement, but email me if you want information on the results of the survey.

Do you smell dirty clothes in your indoor building? Do you suspect your heating ventilation and air conditioning system of causing the smells?

It might be what’s called, “Dirty sock syndrome”. Typically found in high humidity locations. A brief video overview can be found here (You Tube 2:03)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has good information on indoor air quality and how it affects people as they work. They also have some scientific information about how improving the indoor space (by ventilation, temperature, particles, etc) can create a better environment.

AIHA has a “Position Statement on Mold and Dampness in the Built Environment” (March, 2013).  It lays out the reasons to control moisture in a building, and some basic steps for remedy (spoiler: air sampling doesn’t usually help).

Bottom line: Check your coils before replacing your entire system. Replacing these might be cheaper. Or, sometimes they can be cleaned, but it is a strict protocol. One possible solution is here (I do not endorsement, or recommend this particular product/brand. Do your own research).

Unfortunately I have no problem finding an appropriate picture for this blog on Ebay. People are weird. Yuk.

dirty sock

People are inspiring. Starting in 2014, I would like to profile prominent professionals in the health, safety and construction industry.

The idea originally came from a publication  called, The Synergist,  published by the AIHA. At the back of their magazine they introduce someone in the industry. I have always enjoyed hearing about how others got into this field and where their paths have taken them. Unfortunately, this publication is (mostly) only for people in industrial hygiene. Which (IMO) does little to promote the profession to others outside of it.


Illa Gilbert-Jones, CIH, CSPIlla 2014

How did you get started in IH?
I was in the Masters program at the University of Washington and started out with an emphasis on toxicology. I noticed that those in industrial hygiene in the class before me we’re getting job offers so I decided to also complete the industrial hygiene courses.

What is your background?
My career started at Boeing Company as a safety administrator just before completing my masters. From there I have worked as an industrial hygienist for Bayer Corporation Product Safety for the chemical business, primarily isocyanates. I also worked in their Corporate Safety/Industrial Hygiene group before moving to Phoenix where I worked for Phelps Dodge Mining Company as the Corporate Occupational Health Manager. Although a copper mining company, Phelps Dodge also had smelters, refineries, copper magnet wire, and carbon black facilities with classic industrial hygiene issues-heavy metal fumes. After leaving Phelps Dodge, I did a short stint with Clayton Environmental in California before taking a position with a paint manufacturing/distribution as the Security, Safety, Health & Environmental Manager. After a few years in California, we returned to the Northwest where I worked for SAIF Corporation for over 7 years as a safety management consultant.

You are starting a new position, can you tell us what you will be doing?
On January 1st I accepted the position as Program Administrator for Oregon Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (OR-FACE). OR-FACE operates under a NIOSH grant. The program is research based and designed to identify and study fatal occupational injuries. The goal of the FACE program is to prevent occupational fatalities by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then formulating and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. More specifically,
• Identify traumatic occupational fatalities through a statewide surveillance network
• Investigate selected traumatic occupational fatalities
• Have a multidisciplinary team analyze the surveillance and investigation data
• Develop and disseminate prevention strategies for these injuries
• Collaborate with other states and NIOSH to develop prevention strategies to decrease the rate of occupational injuries and fatalities

What has been the most satisfying aspect of the field?
Similar to all occupational safety & health professionals, satisfaction is in observing and experiencing improvements in work conditions by reducing risk of contaminant and physical exposures. It is especially satisfying after struggling time-after-time to influence decision makers and then a breakthrough finally occurs and they become safety advocates.

What is the most fun part?

Developing relationships with those as passionate about injury/illness prevention and in giving back to the profession by mentoring those new to the field.

What is the challenging part?

The realization that the job is never done. Serious injuries and fatalities continue to happen. For occupational illnesses from chronic exposure it is very difficult to influence change today for a negative outcome in the distant future.

What advice do you have for those getting started?

Never be satisfied with small changes, be persistent and try all options in pursuing what you believe to be right. Always look for opportunities to increase yours and others in subject knowledge. Additionally, expand your expertise into areas that are normally grouped with industrial hygiene, e.g., safety, risk management, environmental.

What are your hobbies and outside interests?

I try to please my artistic side by learning and writing calligraphy. On the physical side, I try to go to water aerobics regularly, bicycling, and also use a wrist fit-bit to track my daily steps.

What do you see for the future of IH?

Practicing industrial hygiene creates skills for investigating and understanding several layers of causes. These skills enable an H&S professional to critically look at all possible solutions. Because of these skills, I believe industrial hygienists can be successful in a lot of different field. I have seen IH’s become HR Managers, Lab Managers, and of course HSE Managers. The future of IH is taking on more complex issues such as determining true body burden from exposure and in understanding genetic susceptibility to disease from these exposures.

Editor: Thank you Illa! You are inspiring. You may contact Illa directly at OHSU, or at: illagjones {at}gmail.c0m

I’ll admit it. My elevator pitch is not the best. I have a hard time trying to briefly describe what I do as an industrial hygienist. I usually answer the question with a recent example of a interesting project.

What would you hire an industrial hygienist for? Well, this article describes exactly when you would hire one. I bet the haz mat crew has at least one hygienist investigating this concern.

AIHA has published video on what IHs do and our job function (s). They did a much better job than I could have done, but, the video is NOT as exciting as real-life.





On occasion, owners say they just want to do the minimum to be in compliance with OSHA. Most times this is due to lack of understanding.

For some rules OSHA’s standard is right on the money. Take, for instance, lead (leaded paint) exposure. They have specific rules and guidelines that, if followed, keep virtually everyone protected*. The trouble is that some of OSHA’s rules have not been updated since 1973. New research and industry practices have found these levels to be unsafe even at current standards and exposure limits (PELs).

So, how do you know if the OSHA standards are current?

The quick answer is, you don’t.

Good safety professionals and industrial hygienists study the standards, recommended guidelines, and occupational limits worldwide.  In the US, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) provides the most current best practices. However, there are other methods and standards for specific hazards. ANSI, AIHA (although getting more dated due to lack of funding), European OELs (occupational exposure limits), and others.

It is rare that an employer knowingly exposes employees to a hazard. On the other hand, ignorance isn’t acceptable either….which might be the best reason for OSHA to be in existence. I wish they would spend more money on resources, information and training.  Consult your safety professional!


*recently there is some discussion about low level lead exposure to children

Industrial hygienists are usually defined by the job functions they provide. Many of these activities overlap with safety, environmental, toxicology, compliance, scientific, mathematics, physics, medical, and sometimes legal.

The AIHA’s definition is (and I summarize):

  • to recognize, evaluate and control environmental factors, elements, and stresses in the workplace which might affect the health of workers

Primarily the job functions include:

  • investigating & examining workplace hazards
  • training & educating employees on health risks in the workplace
  • reviewing MSDS
  • performing air monitoring to assess employee exposures
  • making recommendations to control workplace hazards
  • recommending personal protective equipment
  • providing insight/counselling for an employer, or for employees on hazard risks

I don’t have a good “elevator pitch” when describing my work. It’s just too complicated. I usually start out with, “I sort of work with employers and employees in regards to safety & OSHA”. It’s a horrible intro and I wish I could get away from it. Unfortunately, most people know and understand OSHA. We need to do a better job of, 1.explaining what we do and, 2. educating people that there are more effective ways to protect employees than OSHA compliance.

I’ve also heard the jokes. IH = industrial hyenas. 

This question, at times, can really make a difference with how you proceed. Where you get your information, and, more importantly, who provides the information is essential. Not only for compliance, but also for how your employees are protected.

Unfortunately, the answer is often complicated.

To address this question, the answer is YES. They all might overlap depending on what you are doing, and in what situation. I will attempt to briefly summarize when each specific rule or standard might apply.

  • OSHA – if you have employees and they work for you – you must comply. Sometimes each state (Washington, California, Oregon all have their own) may have a specific rule that enforces a bit differently, but Federal OSHA is the minimum rule.
  • MSHA – if you are operating in a mine (surface or underground) they have jurisdiction. Your shop may (or may not) be in their umbrella.
  • ACGIH – If they are referenced, it is usually a good practice to follow their rules. Look specifically at the date of the information. ACGIH updates their information yearly and is protective of the employee. Follow these rules if at all possible.
  • AIHA – Another good recommended source of information (like ACGIH). However, they just announce they will not be updating (due to funding) their WEELs and BEELs.
  • State rules – Occasionally, or more likely, depending on the specific issue, states will make specific rules. The Department of Human Services or similar will provide protective rules for the public. This may be an issue if your are working on a public project, or where small children, HUD, or other specific situations arise.
  • Local rules – Similar to the state rules, sometimes a city will make rules to protect it’s citizens. Being active in the local community is the easiest way to find these rules. Searching through the local city or county rules is a chore, but may reveal some obscure rules.

Finally, at more importantly, why are we looking at rules?

I would suggest focusing on employee health, employee concerns, best practices, and available data to best help our employees. They perform their jobs for a long duration in the day. They usually have the answer, or the best suggestion for fixing it…if we would listen.

Next Page »